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Diagram: Roundabout with arrows to Bicycle Lane treatement, Pavement Markings at Entry, Counterclockwise circulation, Circulatory roadway, Splitter Island, Accessible pedestrian crossing, Landscape buffer, Apron, Central island and Sidewalk or shared use path

Roundabouts and Mini Roundabouts

Outreach & Education
Technical Materials
Other Resources
State & Federal Research
National Partners

A roundabout is a type of circular intersection, but is quite unlike a neighborhood traffic circle or large rotary.  Roundabouts have been proven safer and more efficient than other types of circular intersections.

Roundabouts have certain distinguishing features and characteristics (as shown in the adjacent diagram).  While these noted features are common to many roundabouts, they are not always present, as roundabouts are adapted to the context of the location.  In fact, roundabouts don't even need to be perfectly circular!  Successful roundabouts come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are oval-, teardrop-, peanut- and dogbone- shaped.  Some have as few as three legs and others as many as six.  There are small, simple mini roundabouts, and larger, more complex multilane roundabouts.  However, regardless of size, circular shape, or number of legs, the fundamental and essential characteristics of all roundabouts include:

Counterclockwise Flow. Traffic travels counterclockwise around a center island.

Entry Yield Control. Vehicles entering the roundabout yield to traffic already circulating.

Low Speed. Curvature that results in lower vehicle speeds, generally 15-25 MPH, throughout the roundabout.

Roundabouts can provide lasting benefits and value in many ways.  They are often safer, more efficient, less costly and more aesthetically appealing than conventional intersection designs.  Furthermore, roundabouts are an excellent choice to complement other transportation objectives – including Complete Streets, multimodal networks, and  corridor access management – without compromising the ability to keep people and freight moving through our towns, cities and regions, and across the Nation.  The FHWA Office of Safety identified roundabouts as a Proven Safety Countermeasure because of their ability to substantially reduce the types of crashes that result in injury or loss of life. Roundabouts are designed to improve safety for all users, including pedestrians and bicycles.

Most significantly, roundabouts REDUCE the types of crashes where people are seriously hurt or killed by 78-82% when compared to conventional stop-controlled and signalized intersections, per the AASHTO Highway Safety Manual.

By reducing the number and severity of conflict points, and because of the lower speeds of vehicles moving through the intersection, roundabouts are a significantly safer type of intersection.  The diagram below excerpted from Roundabouts: An Informational Guide, Second Edition (published as NCHRP Report 672) illustrates the difference in conflict points between a conventional, four-legged intersection and an equivalent single lane roundabout.  There are 32 conflict points associated with a conventional intersection – 8 merging (or joining), 8 diverging (or separating) and 16 crossing.  In contrast, there are only 8 total conflict points at an equivalent roundabout – 4 merging and 4 diverging.  Not only are conflict points halved with the roundabout, the type of conflicts that remain are the same-direction variety, which result in substantially less severity, and as a result, less likelihood of injury.  The reduction of both the total number of conflict points and their severity is also true for pedestrians, also shown below in diagrams excerpted from the Guide.

Diagram: Vehicle Conflict Point Comparsion Diagram: Pedestrian Vehicle Conflict Comparison

Outreach and Education

Like any new technology or idea, it is necessary that people understand how roundabouts work and why they are needed.  This conversation begins by communicating the magnitude and importance of the intersection safety challenge.  With roughly ¼ of all traffic fatalities in the United States associated with intersections, it is critical that safer designs are implemented as widely and routinely as possible.  But safer designs must also keep people and goods moving.   Roundabouts have proven to be a safer and more efficient type of intersection.  Still, because they may be unfamiliar to most people, successful implementation of a roundabout requires extra outreach and education.  To help state and local road agencies advance roundabouts, the FHWA produces materials intended to communicate the advantages and benefits of roundabouts to a variety of different audiences.  Many of these resources can be found in the Roundabouts Outreach & Education Toolbox, and are also listed below:

This photo shows a two-lane roundabout floor decal installed in a tradeshow booth. The decal depicts cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and wheelchair users navigating the roundabout safely.
The roundabouts illustration installed in a safety-themed trade show booth
Download a free, printable version of this multi-lane roundabout illustration. This image is a helpful tool to illustrate the features of roundabouts and to educate people about the rules of a roundabout. Please note that this graphic is not intended to be a design template or a standard for roundabouts. This image is an aerial illustration of a two-lane roundabout. The illustration depicts cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and wheelchair users navigating the roundabout safely.
[Printable Version [PDF,324 KB]
[Printable Version [JPG,30 KB]

Roundabout Public Service Announcement

Technical Materials

  1. plus symbol Roundabouts and the ADA

    • Crossing Solutions at Roundabouts and Channelized Turn Lanes for Pedestrians with Vision Disabilities – A Guidebook (NCHRP Report 834) (2016) [HTML]
    • Study of the Effect of ADA Accessibility on Kansas Roundabouts (Kansas, 2008) [HTML]
    • Information from FHWA on Accessible Planning, Design and Construction in the Public Right-of-Way [HTML]
    • Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way (also known as PROWAG) NPRM Version (USAB, 2011) [HTML] [PDF]
    • Crossing Solutions at Roundabouts and Channelized Turn Lanes for Pedestrians with Vision Disabilities (published as NCHRP Report 674) (TRB, 2011) [PDF] – Supporting Material and Report Appendices [PDF]
    • Road Commission for Oakland County (Michigan) Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon and Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon Study – Final Report (RCOC, 2011) [PDF]
    • Synthesis of Literature Relevant to Roundabout Signalization to Provide Pedestrian Access (USAB, 2007) [HTML] [PDF]
    • Pedestrian Access to Roundabouts: Assessment of Motorists' Yielding to Visually Impaired Pedestrians and Potential Treatments to Improve Access (FHWA, 2006) [HTML] [PDF]
    • Pedestrian Access to Modern Roundabouts: Design and Operational Issues for Pedestrians who are Blind (USAB, 2002) [HTML]

Other Resources

State & Federal Research

National Partners

Page last modified on November 17, 2020
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